Manchester Novelist Emma Jane Unsworth’s love letter to her city…

Dear Manchester,

I know we’ve had our differences. I’ve written you a few Dear John letters over the years but I’ve never followed them through. I won’t lie. I’ve thought about leaving. I’ve had the running urge when I felt as though your walls were closing in and I knew too many of your failings and bad habits; when the predictable happened one too many times and I felt as though it was your fault, or my fault for staying. Like that time the top of my dress slipped open on the stage of a crowded Night and Day Café, New Year’s Eve 2001. I was leaping around with a mic after I’d insisted on doing (a capella) karaoke that no one wanted to hear, ignoring the warning cries of my friends who had noticed an escapee boob (I assumed they were just trying to get me off the stage). It was only when I got
to the piano solo of ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ did I look down and see the real reason why everyone was waving and shouting, and I dropped the mic and ran, red-faced, out the back emergency exit. The next day was dark, wasn’t it.

Emma in Night and Day. (Boobs safely tucked away).

When someone’s seen you exposed like that, it’s usually time to go. But as I was planning my hasty departure, trawling TEFL websites and imagining a new, pure, untainted life in Prague, St Petersburg or Istanbul – anywhere but Manchester – something stopped me booking the flights. Something held me fast in your hard granite arms… and so here I am, writing this letter as rain slides down the window in August, 32 years stuck fast, and I know that nowhere else will ever feel like home, or half so interesting.

My love for you is a difficult thing to dissect. It’s something to do with your canals, your cafés, your industry – not so much your famous sense of humour, which has always struck me as a little overrated. It’s the feeling I get when I see you lit up. Last weekend, descending from Derbyshire, I turned the last bend of the Snake Pass and the land unrolled to reveal you, shining. I admire how your achievements have spread around the world: sport, science, art and music. It’s hard to believe that you were just somebody’s idea once. The Romans, was it? Someone got tired of walking and decided to pitch their camp in the heart of the north of England. The first of many excellent ideas hatched here.

On good days I think I recognise every face on your streets. On bad days, I have my glazed Victorian bolt-holes. I visit your southern suburbs when I want to feel cool, or anti-cool, but your northern parts constitute a good portion of my soul.

And in your centre, late at night, I walk in infinite drunken dreams, found and unfrightened.

I love New York because I love you; love Paris because I love you. I think I love cities because I love you. I’ll always come home.

Forever yours,

Emma Jane Unsworth

Emma’s debut novel ‘Hungry, the Stars and Everything‘ is available now on Amazon.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @emjaneunsworth

Ah Manchester. Lovely Manchester. With its pulsing industrial veins, derelict warehouses, terraced rows and slighty-above-average rainfall, it’s never really been considered a beauty.

Except to those lucky enough to have lived here, of course. Forget Paris, forget London, forget New York. Because beauty’s only brick deep, and once you fall in love with Manchester, you fall hook, line and sinker. You fall for its soul, for its strength, for its sense of humour. Well, with weather like this, you’ve gotta find something to laugh about, haven’t you?

While Manchester may not be everyone’s choice of muse, its ‘personality’ has been time and again immortalised in song by musicians who’ve been inspired by the place in one way or another. From the ‘factory wall’ of Ewan MacColl’s ‘Dirty Old Town’ to the underground toilet-cum-bar referenced in Elbow’s ‘Grounds for Divorce’, Manchester has been the inspiration for many a song over the years. Here’s Forever Manchester’s pick of some of our favourite songs inspired by our favourite city.

1. Elbow – ‘Station Approach
The first track off Elbow’s second LP Leader’s of the Free World describes that familiar feeling of returning home to the city that you love, documenting singer Guy Garvey’s walk from Piccadilly Station along Station Approach: ‘The streets are full of goths and Greeks/ I haven’t seen my mum for weeks/ But coming home I feel like I/ Designed the buildings I walk by.’ One of the band’s most bewitching songs (a grand claim, we know), the track builds gradually into a life affirming crescendo as the singer is reunited with his city, and his love. We also like it when he mentions his mum. Well, that’s always nice, isn’t it.

2. Ian Brown –  ‘Longsight M13’
Former Stone Roses frontman, mega-successful solo artist and all round King Monkey Ian Brown has documented his relationship with his hometown in many songs. In ‘Longsight M13’ Brown talks about all the wonderful places and things he’s seen, yet comes back to honours this small pocket of South Manchester with the lyrics ‘Let the stars shine on/ And let her move, move like a queen/ Of Longsight M13’.

3. Gomez – ‘Whippin’ Piccadilly’
Perhaps the Southport fivepiece’s most recognisable song and the one guaranteed to invoke a ‘yeah, but that one’s nothing like the rest of their stuff’ from fans, ‘Whippin’ Piccadilly’ documents a day and evening out in Manchester in which the band ‘Played a bit of football, fell into the union’ (the ‘union’ being Manchester University Students Union which houses the Academy venues), before boarding a train to Sheffield from Piccadilly Station later that night. It’s been said that the song is about a time when the band were studying at Sheffield University and took a trip to Manchester to see Beck – the ‘someone dressed in a suit, looking like a lunatic’ referenced in the song. This may or may not be true. Either way, we like the story.

4.The Fall – ‘Cheetham Hill
One of Mark E Smith’s many odes to Manchester’s less salubrious areas, the surly singer captures life, love and unfaithfulness north east of the city centre with lyrics such as ‘Where you going, boy? Are you cheatin’? / Is that why you come from Cheetham Hill? /When you stopped up at the station / Was it an excuse to get away from your wife for the evening?’ Pretty self explanatory stuff, really.

5. Elbow – ‘Grounds for Divorce
A huge single for the band from the album that propelled them into superstardom, the familiar ‘hole in my neighbourhood down which of late I cannot help but fall’ from the chorus of this track actually refers to a popular Manchester drinking hole; the Temple of Convenience. This former underground Victorian public toilet turned rock n roll drinking den is located on Great Bridgewater Street, next door to the flat that Guy Garvey was living in at the time. The song was written after the death of the band’s friend, singer/songwriter Bryan Glancy (aka ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’) and Elbow’s Pete Turner said that The Temple of Convenience “was a place to go and think about him, and be miserable.”

6. Take That – ‘Mancunian Way
Taken from Take That’s 2006 comeback album Beautiful World, ‘Mancunian Way’ is the band’s only musical tribute to their hometown, and one which sees Droylsden’s Howard Donald on lead vocals. The ‘Mancunian Way’ in question takes on two meanings in the song; as both the traditional ‘ladrock’Gallagheresque walk so often associated with Manchester (We used to walk Mancunian Way/We used to swagger we used to sway) and the elevated city centre bypass (I’m driving home again/ Back down Mancunian Way). They even manage to get in a reference to the famous Manchester weather with ‘I’m gonna bring this town alive/ Through this acidic rain/ I’m gonna come back to life again.’ This lyric prompted us to google ‘Manchester acid rain’ and would you know it, apparently we have the most acidic rain in Europe. God love us.

7. Doves – ‘Northenden’
Another song painting less-than-flattering pictures of life in Manchester’s suburbs, the beautiful, ambling quality of ‘Northenden’ clashes with its less peaceful lyrics ‘The kids are deranged, they love guns and kidnap/ That’s just the way we do things here/ The day dies down not a moment too soon/ Under the Northenden afternoon’. Still, even guns and kidnap aren’t enough to put off vocalist Jimi Goodwin who said at an Oxford gig ‘in some respects I kinda wish I still lived there’.

8. Ewan MacCall – ‘Dirty Old Town’
Made famous by bands such as The Dubliners and The Pogues and therefore sometimes confused with Dublin, the ‘Dirty Old Town’ in question is in fact MacCall’s home town of Salford. The 1949 song describes working class life in an industrial town and dreams of betterment, with lyrics such as ‘I met my love by the gas works wall/ Dreamed a dream by the old canal/ I Kissed my girl by the factory wall/ Dirty old town’. MacColl’s original line of ‘I Smelled the spring on the Salford wind’ was apparently changed to ‘I smelled the spring on the smoky wind’ after a campaign by Salford Council, who were unhappy at Salford being called a ‘Dirty Old Town’. The new lyrics made famous by The Dubliners and The Pogues are now the most commonly sung.

9.The Smiths – ‘Still Ill
When he’s not causing mass offence with silly comments in the news and throwing hissy fits on stage, good old Mozza likes to write songs; many of them about Manchester. ‘Rusholme Ruffians’, ‘Miserable Lie’ (‘What do we get for our trouble and pain ?/ Just a rented room in Whalley Range) and ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ all reference Morrissey’s home town, while the ‘Iron Bridge’of ‘Still ill’ refers to the bridge in Stretford off Kings Road where the singer used to live.

10. The Beautiful South – ‘Manchester’
‘From Northenden to Partington, it’s rain/ From Altrincham to Chadderton, it’s rain / From Moss Side to Swinton, hardly Spain’. Talk about pointing out the obvious. Jeez. But it’s not all rain and gloom, as this jaunty lil’ number by Hull’s finest goes on to big up the rainy city with ‘If rain makes Britain great/ Then Manchester is greater’. Hurrah! And anyway The Beautiful South, you’re from Hull. So there.

July may be drawing to a close, but never fear; there’s still plenty of fun left to be squeezed out of Summer 2011.

And Manchester is in for a packed August of carnivals, parades, arts and food so colourful that even the inevitable rain won’t be able to dampen it.

Writing this blog just before lunchtime, we’re particularly excited about the foodie bits of August’s offering. Thankfully then, we don’t have too long to wait before The Manchester Picnic (5th – 7th August)descends on Piccadilly Gardens for two whole days, bringing together a mouthwatering selection of food from some of the city’s top eateries, to be enjoyed al fresco in a specially created, themed picnic paradise. With an overwhelming selection of grilled, deli and gourmet produce, it’s probably best to skip the Full English that morning, and save enough room to enjoy all the foodie treats that the city has to offer. As well as food there’ll also be music, crafts, family activities and a special ‘teddy bears picnic’ on the Sunday. We think this bit might just be for children. We don’t care. We’re getting involved.

Forever Manchester will be out in force with our own stall at the Manchester Picnic, so make sure you come and say hello.

Commencing on the same weekend as the Manchester Picnic and running for a week until August 14th, the Manchester  Arts and Crafts Market will set up shop on the other side of the City, in St Ann’s Square. We love Manchester’s specialist markets and the arts and crafts markets is a firm favourite, not least because of the special summer beer (and food – don’t forget the food) garden that accompanies it. The market will see dozens of arts and craftspeople from across Manchester bring a vast selection of gorgeous gifts, jewellery, handmade cosmetics, homeware and everything in between, while food on offer (did we mention the food?) will include paella, chorizo rolls, and hot pork sandwiches, all washed down with a glass of chilled British wine or local Hyde’s ale. Find out more at

Had enough food yet? Me neither. So on the 13th – 14th August, head over to Moss Side’s Alexandra Park for Manchester’s vibrant Caribbean Carnival, where the air will be full of the scents and sounds of the Caribbean. Which means you can eat your fill of authentic Caribbean cuisine and then work it all off by shaking your booty to the vibrant sounds of the carnival. There’ll be stalls, live music on a main outdoor stage, and the all important Carnival Parade, which will see Caribbean dance troupes from all over the UK dressed in breathtaking parade costumes and joined by the tropical sounds of a steel band. Find out more at

Rounding off the month of August in Manchester is arguably the most colourful weekend of the entire year in Manchester –  Pride. Celebrating its 21st birthday this year, the outrageously fun celebration of all things LGBT has grown up into a fine figure of a festival, with its biggest ever events programme laid out to mark the event’s coming of age. Central to the 10 day Pride celebrations is The Big Weekend, a 71 hour marathon of music, comedy, clubs, markets and all things LGBT, climaxing in the famous Pride Parade on Saturday 27th. We’ll be blogging nearer the time with a fuller outline of Pride 2011, but for now, stick it in your diary using your best glitter pen and visit the Pride website for information.

As a musician whose ideas are sparked by what I see in my surroundings, I’d be lying if I said that Manchester hasn’t had a huge influence on me.

One of the biggest influences in my life, as I think must be true of the majority of people, is where I grew up. And that, for me, was Moss Side, Mersey Bank and Withington. They’re three of the more deprived areas of the city. They’re not the the worst areas in the world, but they’re certainly not on the Top Ten Places to Live list!

Growing up in areas like these, I was obviously aware of some of the trouble and the goings on, but this was limited to a small number of people from the communities. For me on the whole, the people I lived amongst were proud, welcoming and decent people.

Even though they weren’t the best places to grow up, there was still a strong community spirit; an open arms, ‘everybody’s welcome’ feel. Because of this I’ve learned to turn the negative things around me into positive little stories within my music.

The things I experienced growing up here were what made me and my mates want to create music. We saw it as an outlet for our stories. Growing up here helped us go from strength to strength, which in time lead us to form KiD BRiTiSH – a collective of musicians of different ages and cutural backgrounds.

See, Manchester is a lot more than just the baggy T-Shirt, Parka jacket wearing, Gallagher talking city the media has painted it to be. It is home to so many people from different heritages and backgrounds, which adds to the city’s beauty.

There is a large Asian community where many people from all over the world travel just to eat from the ‘Curry Mile’; a nickname for the part of Wilmslow Road running through the centre of Rusholme in south Manchester. The name is earned from the large number of restaurants and take-aways specialising in the cuisines of South Asia and the Middle- East, thought to be the largest concentration of South Asian restaurants outside the Indian subcontinent – and my friends and I can often be found there having late night drunken food binges.

For me, the thing that seperates Manchester from a lot of other major cities – apart from being the home of the biggest football club in the world (Manchester United) ha ha! – is that you are never made to feel like a stranger, or that it’s you versus the world here. Which is why it is home to such a large student population.

I am proud to say that this is the city I was raised in, and wherever my career takes me Manchester will always have a place in my heart, and be the place I call home.

Simeon McLean, KiD BRiTiSH

As one of the city’s most diverse and colourful communities, it’s only fitting that Hulme should have its own festival to celebrate its artistic heritage.

So on July 30th, more than 2000 local residents are expected to descend on Hulme Park to join the fun at Hulme Festival; a community and charity spirited, free family event celebrating local music, arts, food and comedy.

Three stages will host live music all day and night, reflecting a diverse mix of sounds from folk and indie to roots and reggae.

There’ll also be a Youth Stage, celebrating Hulme’s new generation of talent, a comedy and spoken word arena, dance workshops, performing arts and theatre, and a chill out tent supported by Manchester charity The Big Life Group, which will offer plenty of relaxing holistic therapies throughout the day.

Hulme Park will be bustling with stalls selling everything from arts and crafts to delicious foods. In fact, with so many rich culinary influences thanks to Hulme’s diverse community, a whole section of the festival called ‘The Kitchen’ will be dedicated to food education and – more importantly – food enjoyment.

There’ll be plenty to for everyone to get involved with too – from textile workshops and craft areas to family friendly activities and a ‘Kid Zone’ adventure playground.

Something that’s definitely not to be missed at Hulme Festival is Arcspace Manchester’s Dance Off, where youth and community groups across the world work together with choreographers and DJs to create a spontaneous International event via video link.

There’ll also be loads going on over the road at the Zion Arts Centre – the beating heart of Hulme’s cultural activity. To celebrate its 100th anniversary – and it’s looking pretty good for its age – Zion is hosting a VE Day style 1940’s street party with plenty of food, drink, community spirit and (we hope), plenty of birthday cake.

It’s going to be a fantastic, family friendly day full of music, fun, food and colour, and an opportunity for Manchester residents to come together, celebrate, and find out more about this diverse and community minded pocket of their city. We can’t wait!

Find out more at

When asked by Forever Manchester to write a blog entitled “My Manchester”, I wondered what I could possibly add to what’s already been said by many much more eloquent contributors.

But I suppose that’s the whole point.  Manchester more than ever epitomises a City built on the hopes and talent of its diverse population, from Charles Babbage to Morrissey – the original “Modern”.  So, as much as my contribution hasn’t been anywhere near as significant as some, here’s my take:

My Manchester is a crucible for innovation in science and the media that still has a soul, a part of the world where much of that world is represented, where people still say hello when they see you in the street and find it hard to say goodbye.  My Manchester is a place where you really can reinvent yourself if you try hard enough and where business offers equal opportunity if you go looking for it.

My Manchester is home to some football teams you may have heard of, a Media City that welcomes new constituents, a real social media community that is helping to lead the way in the development of human communication and boybands that become manbands and get the chance to live their dream all over again.  (Sorry, my Wife loves them but I don’t share the enthusiasm – no names mentioned.)

My Manchester has given me pretty much everything I’m proud of, including my marriage and my career.  If you ask it nicely enough and are willing to take the bad days with the good ones, the chances are it will do the same for anyone.

It’s imperfect, but it’s beautiful.  Every city has its good and bad points, but very few inspire the devotion that this one does.  Take a look at Twitter when a contestant on “The Apprentice” says that “we’re two years behind London”.  The truth is, we’re ahead of them.

My Manchester is something real, tangible and maddeningly loveable.  Long may it stay that way.

Manchester likes to keep its best bits hidden. It really isn’t the easiest place to get to know.  Oddly this is one of the most appealing things about the city. Some of my favourite spots really aren’t that obvious, and it has taken me over a decade to suss them out. Sadly there is very little hope for those dropping in for a weekend.  Perhaps that’s the point.  Does Manchester selfishly prefer not to shout about some of the things that make it so special?

Let’s start with food. My favourite eateries are all tucked away.  El Rincon for example, the ridiculously authentic tapas bar that makes you feel you’ve stepped onto Spanish soil the moment you enter, or Choice, the stylish canal-side restaurant under Middle Warehouse in Castlefield. I also love the front-room feel of the Market Restaurant, which has watched the Northern Quarter grow around it.

Now summer’s here I can revisit some of Manchester’s best outdoor  spaces, those harder to find beer gardens that are perfect if you want to avoid the crowds at Dukes 92. The terrace at the back of Atlas Bar has to be my favourite but others worth a mention include the roof top gardens at the Bridge and Deansgate pubs, the terrace at the City Inn, the tables outside Beluga and the sunny patio outside Lava bar in Castlefield

My favourite street has got to be Tib Street with its eclectic mix of boutique style shops, cafes and bars. It’s like Manchester’s equivalent of Penny Lane with the laid-back bustle of people going about their day but never too busy to stop and chat.  I particularly love Northern Flower florist, Matt and Phred’s jazz bar and the flirty French hairdresser, Olivier Morosini at the top. And I’ll miss the iconic Rags to Bitches vintage clothes shop, forced on-line by rising business rates.

The same elusiveness is true of the Manchester music scene.  Some of the best bands seem to be kept a closely guarded secret for years.  How long did it take for Elbow to become a recognised name outside the city?  Even today locally grown talent like The Jessie Rose Trip, Exit Calm and I am Kloot are plugging away without realising the level of attention they truly deserve.   Although the recent Mercury nomination for the latter may at least address that one.

Perhaps Manchester should be better at sharing its hidden treasures but because it doesn’t, you can’t help feeling a tad smug when you’re let into another secret and discover another gem.